Axing of commuter train stop at King's Sutton should be reversed, say passengers

An Oxford to Banbury commuter train stop at King's Sutton should be reinstated, say villagers, who claim it is enshrined in the service's contract.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 4:43 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 4:44 pm
David Evans who has complained about the changes in the evening GWR train timetable
David Evans who has complained about the changes in the evening GWR train timetable

GWR discontinued the King's Sutton stop on the 17.20 service when it rescheduled timetables in December. This has meant anyone wanting to get off at King's Sutton has to go to Banbury and catch a train back, delaying their return by 30 minutes.

After a Banbury Guardian story told how the King's Sutton stop had been axed, a villager dug out the franchise agreement with GWR which, he claims, obliges the company to provide three Monday to Friday trains between 4pm - 7.30pm, each train stopping at Tackley, Heyford and King's Sutton.

But GWR told the Banbury Guardian: "We’re not in breach of our Service Level Commitment. We made every endeavour to call at all stations but because of a conflicting service it was not practical to stop at Kings Sutton. Other options were explored, including a complete re-timing but this was just not possible.”

King's Sutton villager David Evans has complained bitterly to GWR. He said the four minute gap between the 7.20pm train reaching Banbury and the arrival of a Chiltern Railways service (using the same line) should allow the GWR train to stop at King's Sutton - taking a maximum two minutes including slowing down, letting passengers get on and off, and speeding up.

In his letter he said: "King's Sutton passengers are being treated as third class citizens at best by GWR. After carefully studying the relevant timetables, I think there is time and that a way could have been found if the will to do so had been there. The situation has only arisen because of oversights in the planning of the new timetables

"What really angers me is that the Chiltern line service in question, scheduled to arrive in Banbury at 17.50, is an existing service; one that arrives four minutes later than the stopping service from Oxford. Our train could still stop at King's Sutton without inconveniencing this service, especially as it comes into Banbury station on a different platform.

"Also, the new 19.14 fast service from Oxford to Banbury could additionally stop at King's Sutton and still reach Banbury less than two minutes later (at 19.36 rather than 19.34) arriving over three minutes before the 18.21 Chiltern line service from London.

"Surely, one of these options is possible and would avoid the very serious inconvenience to King's Sutton passengers, brought about as a direct result of GWR'S timetabling decisions. This problem should have been foreseen and avoided."

In a reply, Lewis Gale, GWR's customer support senior officer told Mr Evans: "We had hoped we could continue to make the Kings Sutton call on the 19:20 service, but I’m afraid due to conflicts with other services using the line and serving Banbury, it simply wasn’t possible to retain.

"I have contacted our timetabling team and they have explained that the 19:20 service from Oxford gets in to Banbury three and a half minutes before the following Chiltern Railways service arrives. The minimum headway at this location is three minutes, which is why we can’t stop at Kings Sutton and Network Rail removed the stop.

"We did explore a number of other options, including stopping an alternative service. However this service is also on a minimum headway into Banbury ahead of a Chiltern service. In addition, it is also on a minimum turnaround time at Banbury before it forms its next train.

"We do appreciate travelling via Banbury isn’t ideal but I’m afraid at present it simply isn’t possible to add a Kings Sutton stop. The timetable is being closely monitored and this will be reviewed in the future timetables."